Firstly, apologies for a late posting, but as you’ll appreciate the final days of an excavation, and the first days back at home, are the most hectic! So without further ado here’s a quick rundown of what went on!
Monday in the field was devoted to recording the site. In both trenches staff and students were drawing sections (side views or profiles) of the ditch segments, particularly in Trench seven. Everything had to be drawn to scale and cleaned for archive photographs to be taken. These included more aerial shots taken by Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam on his final visit to us.
As you can see in the images here, both trenches clearly show the extent of the archaeology. In trench six, the central area is the original ‘hall of the dead’ where a timber and daub structure held the bones of the ancestors. At either end you can see the large post holes – large enough to hold posts made of a single tree, probably oak, which had been split in half. Surrounding this was a shallow, horseshoe shaped ditch. When this was closed, the sections that Nick and the team put through the mound had revealed that cremations were inserted into the south side. This was later covered by a cairn of stony material and cremations were buried by this. Millennia later, the whole structure was bulldozed, leaving all three mounds in the form we see them today.
In the image of Trench seven you can see the ditch segments, and how the line is not straight, but kinks off to the southwest. In almost all of the segments we excavated, large stones were found, suggesting that there was some form of structure associated with it. Finding the antler at the bottom of the ditch was the best moment of the 2017 season, and it will soon be on it’s way to a lab for dating.
Monday also saw the removal of all the tools from the dig site, as they were taken down to the campsite for cleaning and packing, ready to be loaded in the van for return to Manchester. This is an often overlooked aspect of excavation, but cleaning, ‘oiling’ and packing the tools makes life so much easier in the long run. They are ready to use and ‘oiling’ prevents them rusting if they are in the tool store until next summer. If they’re taken by the next Departmental excavation, they have nice, clean, professional looking equipment.
Tuesday saw a skeleton crew on site as Trench six was finished and closed down. That left just a few people doing drawings in Trench seven. Among them of course was Julian, who was drawing the scale plan of the whole trench.
People have asked us if it was worth it, and our answer has to be an emphatic yes! The top of Dorstone Hill is a unique area, there is nowhere else with this configuration of Neolithic monuments. Both types of monument are rare in this country, and to find them together is amazing! There has been good dating evidence from the mounds to the north of the site and now we hope there’ll be a good date from the causewayed enclosure. Both Julian and Keith are very, very happy with the results of this year’s work, and Nick and Irene have over 300 pieces of Rock Crystal to work with on their new project.
We’ve made more friends this year, and of course we have to say thank you to those who have helped us out. So, thank you to the Hughes family on whose land this extraordinary site is found, to Herefordshire Archaeology for supplies and storage, to Adam Stanford for his great pictures of the site (and some 3D models to come). Thanks to the supervisors – David and Anne – for their patience, and to all the students for all their hard work. Mention should be made of Lisa and her staff at The Pandy who provided a warm welcome and beer! Lastly, but by no means least, a very big thank you to the villagers of Dorstone and the Dorstone Front Room for their welcome, patience and support for the project, without which the project could not survive. Thank you to you all!
There’s more . . .
Now the behind-the-scenes-work begins, and we’ll be keeping you up to date with things as they happen, including that important radiocarbon dating!